January 19, 2013
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Earlier this week, I flew back to New Jersey to give a presentation, and came in early to spend a few days in New York City to soak up some culture.
What was originally going to be personal time ended up being a busy work trip filled with meetings with business contacts, recruiters, and social media community managers. No matter; I was delighted at the prospect of meeting these folks in real life after connecting via social media. It’s the personal connection that cements any kind of business relationship, and social media makes these in-person meetings possible whereas our paths likely would have never crossed otherwise.
But in the evenings, I had some downtime… and pounced on the opportunity to get audience tickets to the January 15th taping of The Colbert Report.
Being in the career space, I am fascinated with Stephen Colbert’s interviewing acumen.
He leaves no stone unturned, and is dangerously direct… much like many employers interviewing candidates for jobs. Witnessing his process first-hand was something I always wanted to experience. (And hopefully, someday I’ll find myself in his interview chair talking about my book, “Forget Job Security: Build Your Marketability.”)
So I settled in, excited to be in the audience and watch Colbert work his magic with that day’s guest.
It came with a little shock, however, when I heard the audience coordinator announce that Mr. Colbert was coming out before the show taping to do 10 minutes of audience Q & A. My mind started reeling.
So, what exactly WOULD you ask the master of interviewing?
Quickly, I formulated a question, and after the floor crew whipped the crowd into an energetic frenzy, Colbert came wheeling out from backstage and careened along the audience seating area. He was every bit as engaging out of character as his “The Colbert Report” blowhard newsman alter ego. Only less blustery, and much more thoughtful and gracious.
He thanked the audience for being there, and then opened it up for questions.
And I have to confess, I was a little nervous, and let a few questions go by before my hand shot up.
He pointed at me to acknowledge my question. Deep breath on my end, then: “So, have you ever had any of your interviews completely melt down… where the person you were interviewing completely lost it?”
In my mind, I was thinking of how some of his interviews left the interviewee blinking like an owl when faced with a question that so completely escaped their comprehension, much to the delight of the people watching the show.
Any employer likely has tons of similar interview stories of candidates who had no idea what they were being asked… granted, Colbert’s character tends to mock guests (hopefully employers don’t do this to potential new employees!), but the root of the matter is the fact is that this person is appearing on this show… and means serious business. They have a concept to promote, and while Colbert’s interview can be quite entertaining, there is an underlying earnestness to this interview: to get their message across.
Similarly, in a job interview, job seekers are earnestly promoting the concept that they are the ideal solution to the employer’s needs.
So back to the show: What was Colbert’s response to my question?
He said that he tried to make sure that the people being interviewed have a good time… that he is in character, and have fun. But a few people don’t get it and one person, after the interview, threw down the microphone and was very upset. He totally didn’t get it.
The truth is that we ALL should be having fun in interviews. It is the apex of our efforts to get to that point, and something we should be exhilarated to discuss… whether in a job interview or discussing a concept in The Colbert Report‘s interviewee chair.
The interview experience should be fun… and we can make it so by having an attitude that allows us to adapt to the interviewer’s style to better relate to them. Colbert’s best interviews are with guests who give as good as they get. It creates rapport, and is clearly fun for both as it adds dimension to the discussion. The people who are stiff come across as lifeless and without depth.
By taking the approach of making this a memorable and enjoyable experience, you can bet that your next interview will be much improved… and hopefully lead to that next job.Photo of Stephen Colbert by David Shankbone (David Shankbone) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons